Finding Ourselves on the Autism Spectrum

The next step

Over the years I’ve let go of a lot of my attachment to goals and deadlines.  We get to things when we’re ready, and we don’t always get to decide when that will be.  Sometimes we don’t seem to be moving forward much at all.  Sometimes we lose some ground, but we try to remember that the overall trend is upward.  It’s just not a straight line.

Today has been a decent day so far.  Middle son came back from a sleepover  and has been enjoying his new Rockband for the Xbox.  He’s the only one of the three to take much interest in music so far.  My youngest had a playdate at a friend’s house and put a lot of effort into trying to clear a light layer of snow off the driveway to impress his dad before he got home.

My oldest has been a bit stressed today.  Nothing along the lines of a full blown crisis. At least not right now.  You never know what the day may bring.  But he woke up restless and not happy about the homework still remaining to be done before tomorrow, and he had it in his mind to escape his worries for a while by attending a local weekly Yugioh tournament.  He never does as well as he thinks he will at these things, but he gets a bit better each time, and he no longer falls completely apart in frustration.  So if we have time, as we did today, it’s nice to indulge him.

He did good by finding the website of the place where they listed the time of the tournament.  Then his dad asked him to call the place and confirm that it was actually happening today.  Not strictly necessary, but a good way to get useful information about any last minute changes.  And not a big deal for some people.  But my guy?  Hmmm.  Phone call.  Yeah, he wasn’t exactly comfortable with that.

This is the part where I have to figure out what he can actually manage today, because often he doesn’t know himself.  It doesn’t always work trying to base it on what he’s done in the past.  Since puberty hit, he manages some things a lot better, and some things have gotten more difficult.  He can stay in the classroom during every period on a pretty regular basis now and consistently participates, and he doesn’t refuse to do his assnments.  He can attend after school clubs in his areas of interest on his own. That’s all tremendous progress. At the same time, inviting a friend over happens much less frequently and only when we have just the right combination of mood and circumstances.  And he does NOT want to do phone calls. 

There was a period of time when I just would have pushed.  We’ve done a lot of pushing over the years, and it’s mostly turned out to be for the best.  He’s all about inertia and getting started, and once he gets past that, he’s usually fine.  It’s exhausting, but it’s worked.  But as he’s gotten older, sometimes the pushing just makes things worse.  Also, this kid is 15 and over 6 feet tall now, and I don’t look all that intimidating anymore, if I ever did.  He finally has some investment in wanting to accomplish things himself, though, and the best situation is when I can appeal to that.  But sometimes, he’s just not up for something, and it’s not a big enough deal to make into a Thing.

So here’s what I’ve been trying lately – with him, with the other kids, and with other situations that I need to address in my day.  I just ask myself, what’s the next step that we can handle?  What’s something to get us moving in a positive direction, if only moving slightly?  If he can’t manage the talking, can he look up the phone number? Can he dial? Can he sit next to me and listen to both sides of the conversation to get a feel for how that goes and what words get used?  Rather than bailing on the whole thing or handling it all for him, how can we help him move forward even just al little?  And often, once the pressure of having to do the whole thing is removed – because the anxiety that accompanies his autism is more debilitating than any other aspect of this condition for him – he finds he can do more than he thought he could.  And then he gets to feel like he accomplished something.

So he did everything up to sitting with me to make the call, and then they didn’t pick up at the other end. We  decided it was probably fine, anyway, and made preparations for him to go.  He handled his dad leaving him there on his own, us missing his initial phone call home, losing all his matches (including one to a little kid which produced a brief period of understandable swearing back in the car), and now he’s moving forward on his homework.  There’s nothing remarkable about the day, but we helped our boy get past being stuck, and he is handling his frustration without it overwhelming him, and to us that makes it a Good Day.

Comments on: "The next step" (11)

  1. Yes! That was a big thing for Rick and me to realize, that somedays our kids can handle more than they can on other days, that sometimes the ability to do something they just did the other day may not be there.

    One of Bobby’s things is the phone (it’s one of mine, too, so if there’s any way I can make my husband do it, I do!), but it’s something he’s learning to overcome, and each time he does, I am super proud of him because I completely get it.

    I’m glad it was a good day. 🙂

    • “somedays our kids can handle more than they can on other days, that sometimes the ability to do something they just did the other day may not be there.”

      I like how you put this. It’s taken me a long while to understand.

      I’m the same way about the phone. My husband helps out a lot with that, too. For years he didn’t understand (probably because I was trying to seem more comfortable than I was), but now that he sees this with our son, I think he sees it about me, too. And my son knows that I definitely get where he’s coming from.

      Thanks for commenting 🙂

  2. I have used this idea of having my son tell me what part of something he can handle, but don’t always remember to do it. Thanks for the reminder!

    I use this trick on myself as well sometimes, when I feel a bit panicky about something. Breaking things up into smaller pieces can definitely help to at least get part of it accomplished.

    And it certainly sounds like he has made a lot of progress in handling the competitive aspects of things. That is still a big hurdle for us.

    • Hi, Aspergirl Maybe.

      We can all use reminders about these things, can’t we? I do this with myself a lot, as I go from zero to overwhelmed pretty quickly and frequently. Once I see that there is some part of a task that seems possible to me, then I have something to build on.

      The competitive thing is difficult, and I hope you won’t lose hope if it takes some time to make progress. I’m very happy my son has learned with much coaching, practice, experience, etc., to be able to lose at some things without having a meltdown. It’s shifted the point where this happens, rather than eliminating it. He is willing to lose, but only to a certain point, beyond which he feels that it’s unacceptable and starts looking for someone else to blame and getting very worked up. As an example, his team losing one swim meet was OK. The next was worse, and by the third he was upset enough for everyone around him to notice. We never made it to the last one. He tried the tennis team, too, but even though he was fine losing some matches to other JV team members, the idea of playing against other teams in front of people and possibly not doing well was too much, and he dropped out.

      But for everyday things where he isn’t in front of a lot of people and hasn’t invested a lot of time, he really is much better than he used to be. It helps when he’s good enough at something to excel a lot of the time 🙂 We’ve actually made a point of pushing some of his buttons at home when we have opportunities, trying to stretch him just a bit past his comfort zone, so we can work on his reactions and build up some skills in private to use out in the world. My husband, especially, sees it as his job to “mess with” the kids periodically to help them build up a tolerance for frustrations and friendly ribbing and disappointments. It’s a very slow process.

  3. Yep! Here too! Both in myself growing up, and in my kids now. The inconsistencies are hard for me. Some days I’m not good at remembering that just because he did it yesterday, doesn’t mean it’s a snap today.

    Still learning that one, and probably still pushing a bit more than I should. I don’t think I’ll screw him up too much. LOL


    • You’re doing so great! Your family is blessed to have you. I keep messing this up all the time. At least we have the experience to see when we’ve taken a wrong turn and make a course correction. Since I clearly don’t have it in me to be supermom who always knows what to do, I just keep trying to instill in them that it’s OK to mess up, because we all do, and what’s important is how we move forward from there. Also that we need to forgive each other and ourselves. We’re all just doing the best we can, and that’s all we can ask of anybody. I hope eventually it will sink in. (I have Big Bird’s “Everyone Makes Mistakes” song running through my head right now, and I find that amusing 🙂

  4. It’s something other people seem to find very difficult to understand, I think. We get a lot of “I know he can do it, I’ve seen him do it” comments, and it’s hard to say “Yes, but that was yesterday, this is today, and today No He Can’t!”

    • I definitely hear you. I remember reading a book about ADHD once – when we were still trying out different diagnoses – and having it state that kids end up being punished for doing something well once, because that immediately becomes the new standard. I finally get how mistaken that is, after a long time seeing things that way, but it’s still a challenge trying to convince other people.

  5. Hi there – thanks for visiting my blog recently 😀 It was so good to see you there! I’ve subscribed to your blog today and look forward to reading your posts in the future.

    I hope you have a great day xx

    • Hi, Chloe.

      That’s so nice of you to comment and subscribe. It’s great meeting so many caring, talented people here. You’ve added a bright spot to my day 🙂

      • Hi Diane – glad I added a bright spot to your day – that’s a nice thing to say! 😉

        And I agree, it’s wonderful to meet so many caring, talented people here. It looks like you’ve only recently started blogging on WordPress…good luck with your blog my friend…I’m sure you’ll find this little online community a GREAT one to be in. We’re all so supportive of one another and I’ve made some great friends and been really inspired this way.

        Have a good day xx

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